Bipartisan “fix” to National Guard Student Loan Repayment Program introduced

A bipartisan bill has been introduced which enhances student loan benefits so National Guard and Reserve members qualify for full student loan repayments.

The legislation was introduced by Mississippi’s 4th District Congressman Steven Palazzo, Deb Haaland (NM-01), and Cheri Bustos (Ill.-17).

Right now the many brave young people who choose to enlist in the National Guard and Reserve are blocked from receiving full student loan repayments because their six-year contract falls short of the seven-year requirement. As a result, many National Guard members do not realize the full repayment of their student loans.

The Selected Reserve Education Loan Repayment Program (LRP) Enhancement Act will adjust the LRP Program so that Selected Reserve component service members can realize 100% of qualified education benefits within their six-year contract while providing a strong recruitment tool for the National Guard. This bill provides a fairer balance of the benefits offered to Citizen Soldiers when compared with their active-duty counterparts.

“Thousands of our National Guardsmen utilize the Selected Reserve Education Loan Repayment Program (LRP) to pay off student loans, which is helpful to many, but I believe it could be reformed to benefit more service members,” said Congressman Palazzo. “Our bipartisan legislation updates the LRP so members of the reserve components can receive the benefits they earned, just like their active-duty counterparts. This program has been an efficient recruitment tool and our bill would increase the program’s overall success while inviting a wider talent pool to serve.”

“National Guard members deserve the benefits they sign up for, but right now the rules shortchange them. We know that student loan debt is strangling economic opportunities for young people and there shouldn’t be any reason for our reservists to be stuck with unmanageable student loan debt. I’m proud to lead a bill with Representatives Bustos and Palazzo to make sure those who volunteer to serve our communities receive the benefits they deserve,” said Congresswoman Deb Haaland. 

“Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, the men and women of the National Guard utilized their unique capabilities to arrange testing sites, deliver food and distribute supplies to assist their neighbors,” Congresswoman Bustos said. “After their service to our communities, I fought to make sure their orders wouldn’t be arbitrarily cut off prior to receiving education benefits like the Post-9/11 GI Bill, and now I’m fighting to help make sure they can repay their student loans. That’s why my colleagues and I put forward this legislation today to ensure members receive the benefits they earned. I thank Representatives Haaland and Palazzo for joining me in this effort.”

Specifically, the bill raises the annual LRP repayment limit to 20% or $1,000, whichever is greater, without changing the $50,000 total which enhances flexibility in offering this as an incentive in today’s challenging recruiting environment while making sure that National Guard and Reserve members have access to their benefits within the term of their contract. 

The Selected Reserve Education Loan Repayment Program (LRP) Enhancement Act has support from organizations that advocate for National Guard members including the Reserve Organization of America, National Guard Association of the United States, and Enlisted Association of the National Guard of the United States.

“ROA thanks Rep. Haaland for her leadership on the Student Loan Program, a valuable recruiting and retention incentive that will encourage recruitment into our Reserve and National Guard, and enhance retention among America’s citizen-warriors. Rep. Haaland’s bill would strengthen the program’s ability to help reserve servicemembers repay education loans as they serve our nation.”– Maj. Gen. Jeffrey E. Phillips, U.S. Army (Ret.), executive director, Reserve Organization of America

“This legislation would fix a problem that has long frustrated many in our ranks. Thanks to Reps. Haaland, Bustos, and Palazzo, National Guard soldiers are closer to being able to enjoy their full loan-repayment benefit in a single six-year enlistment. It’s what they have earned, and it’s what Congress originally intended.” – Retired Brig. Gen. J. Roy Robinson, President of the National Guard Association of the U.S. (NGAUS) 

“The Enlisted Association of the National Guard of the U.S. (EANGUS) supports increasing the Student Loan Repayment Program repayment amount for the Reserve Component (RC). If adopted, Rep. Haaland’s FY21 NDAA amendment would increase federal assistance funds to 20%, better serving RC Servicemembers, and more closely aligning the benefit to the Active Component’s benefit. We encourage the amendment’s adoption during HASC Mark-up.” – Frank Yoakum, Executive Director of the Enlisted Association of the National Guard of the U.S. (EANGUS)